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Cuba's Future After Fidel Castro
There are many schools of thought when considering the future of Cuba without its leader Fidel Castro. Many think that Cuba is on the cusp of greatness while others warn of coming doom. It can be difficult envisioning the true Cuba from an Americanized point-of-view. Many Americans cannot understand a socialist framework where everyone is treated equal because America is the land of unique opportunity and individualism. It can be said that in order to examine and predict Cuba's future without Castro, one must first look at Cuba's past and present. By looking at the Revolution of 1959 and what Cuba's holds for its people today, this paper will explore many "what if" scenarios. It is simple to conclude that a Cuba without Castro influences the status of the power authority directly. It seems that Cuba's political health has a direct relationship with the state of the economy and ability for its growth. Cuba's relationships with other countries are unpredictable and at times dependent in nature. The island's close proximity to the United States could very well in the future turn advantageous but in the past has proven unpredictable and static due to both countries current political views. It is difficult to say if this relationship will improve over time with or without Castro's leadership. In many ways his leadership has created a society very closed off from the western world. It has only been recently that Americans have seen a glimpse of Cuban culture and that glimpse has many opinions. According to Aviva Chomsky's The Cuba Reader, "Cuba is often perceived in starkly black and white terms" (par. 2) or flat and simple, devoid of passion. Does the regime set the standard of how outsiders view Cuba? Other perceptions of Cuban culture also eluded to in The Cuba Reader and other works cited paint a different portrait that of lush and vibrant expression. One thing remains clear is that a Cuba with or without Castro's leadership and legacy, is a Cuba slowly changing due to outside influence and its own need for cultural expression. The future of Cuba remains unpredictable, as does its economy, however, there is hope for possibility. Works cited in this paper support that Cuba is open to change over time.
Old Cuba and Monoculture
Marifeli Perez-Stable opens her book The Cuban Revolution by commenting "six factors interacted to render Cuba susceptible to radical revolution" (7). These six factors were:
mediated sovereignty, sugar-centered development, uneven modernization, the crisis of political authority, the weakness of the clases economicas (economic classes), and the relative strength of the clases populares (popular sectors). (Perez-Stable 7)
Pre-revolutionary Cuba or Old Cuba is a culture created out of sugar production. When one product exists in a trade market and economic growth is based on the success of that product; this is called monoculture. It is this monoculture that "constituted the structural context that allowed social revolution to happen" (Perez-Stable 7). The Old Cuba political machine was weak because the sugar industry had tried to please its number one buyer, the United States government. It failed to please its own people on the domestic level (Perez-Stable 7). Cuba's dependence upon the United States market and its need for sugar continued to fuel the fire toward social change and this change did not happen overnight. The 1940 Constitution did not incorporate many changes people were interested in but only "embodied a social compromise protecting private property, sanctioning an interventionist state, endorsing agrarian reform, and promoting a host of social rights" (Perez-Stable 7). In other words, this document protected the business of sugaring growing. After failing to consolidate new social ideas and years of poor leadership by the 1950's, the political authority was in crisis. By this time, the sugar industry as Old Cuba's only economy was also exhausted. The sugar industry could no longer promote economic growth or create diversification of products with one strong market of demand. At this time, it could be argued that Cuba could have made the transition from pure dependence to a new form of dependent capitalism. However, what Perez-Stable phrases as "tropical dependent development" (8) never took off for Cuba. As a result, Cuba's future held in the balance in need of dynamic leadership.
The Cuban Revolution
In 1959, Fidel Castro and his movement "enjoyed overwhelming popular support" (Perez-Stable 7). The Cuban people had never idolized someone like him or held anyone so beloved before. They truly believed in his extraordinary leadership and vision. In many ways, he was the perfect everyman and had an ability to relate to all Cubans on many levels. He pleased the people by delivering old promises of social change and was able to placate Old Cuba's military unlike leaders before him. However, many new ideals brought to fruition during this time did not agree with the United States or its foreign policies toward the market. The United States wanted to keep Cuba dependent on the relationship. The Cuban Revolution and leadership "focused on three crucial elements in consolidating its rule: developing the economy, seeking new international allies, and constituting a new political authority" (Perez-Stable 10). Out of this grew a new conciencia or consciousness-based greatly on the well being of the collective people as being crucial to economic success and strengthening Anti-American sentiment.
Cuba took a stand against the United States in national unity welding together social justice and equality for all Cubans. To the United States, this must have been perceived as the greatest of insults. Until this point in time, the United States was the principal market for Cuban sugar exports (Perez-Stable 15). With the Revolution behind Cuba, exporters hoped to find diversification as a result of radical change and that monoculture would be a thing of the past. Cuba was taking a great risk by breaking its bonds with the United States market that could have resulted in national suffering. Castro may have seen two trends developing in the economy, which were not benefiting the people. First, the sugar industry was failing in production quotas for the United States market and this was weakening other emerging industries. Cuba was quickly becoming an urbanized nation due to industrialization and this created a middle class. Secondly, Castro understood the United States wanted to maintain control and influence over its interest in Cuban sugar making it more of a decision-maker than a client (Perez-Stable 17). Cuba made the choice to look elsewhere for support in order to resume economic success.
Cuba's Relationship with the Soviet Union
Perez-Stable writes, "national sovereignty against the United States, however, was possible only because of the support of Soviet Union" (10). These new ties enabled the island nation to survive the United States embargo of 1962 and achieve some economic growth. Cuba benefited from the Soviet Union's military training and supplies. The relationship allowed Cuba to focus on Cuban issues and interests without feeling threatened. At this time, it is thought that the absence of capitalism would enhance economic gains and social justice. The Soviet Union quickly replaced the United States as Cuba's sugar market. As Cuba's sugar culture became king again, its other more urbanized industries diminished due to lack of diverse products and talented workers leaving the country. Had Castro passed away during this time, it is possible the Soviet Union would have stepped in to aid and continue the regime.
The end of the Cold War and fall of Eastern European Communist parties put Cuba at a disadvantage. This event "radically altered the international conditions sustaining the Cuban economy" (Perez-Stable, 86). The United States tightened its embargo hoping this action would cause upheaval for Castro. This new situation limited prospects of socialism and military power for Cuba. The Cuban collective way of life and idealism, the notion of socialism was diminishing worldwide. Cuba had few allies with the Soviet Union gone and felt threatened by the United States. This created a new feeling of hostility in Cuba toward the United States. This hostility only put Cuba on the defensive fueling radical nationalism and stalling any possibility of change (Perez-Stable, 175).
It is difficult to surmise Cuba's future without Castro because of "the conditions at the time of his demise and the cause of his passing are impossible to know" (Suchlicki, par. 2). Will the Revolution's regime survive such a change or will a change in leadership not matter? When compared with other communist states in Latin America like the Dominican Republic and Chile, it is possible to say Cuba's revolutionary spirit will remain intact. What strengthens this possibility is Cuba's present relationship with China. In recent years, many exchanges of leadership and training experiences have taken place in both countries. Still "it is doubtful that Castro need any foreign examples to influence his predilections on how to govern" (Suchlicki, par. 4). This relationship with China is simply one Communist country creating an alliance with another. Even despite Castro's recent physical ailments, his influence and leadership remains strong.…[continue]
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